The young men and women who answer the call to serve at the altar as servers fulfill an important duty. They are called to help the celebrant, to set the table, and assist as he receives the gifts of the community. They do all these things as invisibly as they can so as to not distract from the solemnity of Mass. Let us then examine the role of Altar Servers in the Catholic Church.
WHO ARE ALTAR SERVERS?
Altar Servers are commonly children or teenagers who assist a priest during Mass. Their name comes from the Latin word “ministrare” which means ‘’to serve’’. While the function of altar server is commonly associated with children, it can be and is carried out by people of any age or dignity.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF ALTAR SERVERS IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?
The role of Altar Servers is recognized by the Conciliar Constitution as an integral part of the liturgy. The Altar Servers therefore carry out various tasks in the context of the Mass, and are named after them, to distinguish themselves from each other.
The Thurifer is, for instance, the Altar Server who carries the thurible for incensings. Often the Thurifer accompanies the incense boat bearer, the Altar Server assigned to the incense boat.The duty of the incense boat bearer is to hand the priest the incense boat, so he can draw the grains of incense, pour them into the thurible and bless them.
The Candle bearers are those who bear the candles. During the procession, their position is behind the Thurifer and at the sides of the person who carries the Cross.
Nevertheless, the number of Altar servers during celebrations does vary, depending on the manner of the celebration.
The role of Altar Servers is particularly delicate if we think of them as representing a point of union between the Priest and the faithful. In fact, besides assisting the Priest by helping him arrange what is required for the Eucharist, placing the liturgical objects on the altar and bringing the Missal, the Altar Servers also pray together with the believers and accompany them with hymns.
Altar Servers must strive to follow the example of Jesus, who did not hesitate to place himself at the whole of humanity’s service, and even sacrificed himself.
Not only during liturgical celebrations, but also throughout everyday life, Altar Servers must live by following His example of love, generosity, commitment and precision. Altar Servers are Jesus’ ‘friends’, usually young people full of enthusiasm and willingness to take part in the activities of the Church by offering their contributions of love and devotion.
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